The class action suit I didn’t know about. Until now

Hey, I’m a plaintiff! Again! Just got a check in the mail, a check for $18.04. It came from the Foreign Currency Fee Litigation Settlement Fund, Settlement Claim Payment.

Who knew? Not me.

I’ve mentioned this peculiar situation previously — when I got a future reimbursement from a class action settlement against Expedia. I hadn’t known then I was a plaintiff. It was sort of a no-legal-involvement-for-me lawsuit.

It does happen. If you are involved in any way with a large corporation (this one would seem to be American Express), you too might wind up suing without knowing. Since the payee is the “Foreign Currency Fee Litigation Settlement Fund,” I assume American Express did something tref-y with foreign transaction fees.

Once, though, I did know that I was a plaintiff. It was a class action lawsuit against a company in which I owned stock, although I don’t remember which company. I was notified that a group of shareholders were suing, for what I’ve forgotten. In that case, I was required to do some work: I had to go through all my brokerage purchase notifications, dig out the ones applicable to that lawsuit, make copies, fill out a form, and send it to a court.

The worth to me was hardly financial; I didn’t own many shares. But I did the work anyway, because it was there to be done and I found it interesting and righteous. And eventually I did get some payment.

Most of all, though, I got the satisfaction of knowing that I had, in a miniscule way, participated in controlling and punishing some corporate malfeasance against shareholders. I felt that my action, when joined with the many others who made up our class, strengthened our laws.

Here’s what is written at the bottom of my check:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: PLEASE READ. You may be a member of the FX Damages Class in a second lawsuit, Ross v. American Express Co., that also seeks damages for foreign transaction fee claimants who made eligible foreign transactions from July 22, 2000 to November 8, 2006, using certain Visa, MasterCard or Diners Club cards (but not American Express). An agreement in principle to settle the FX Damages Class claims for $49.5 million [oh. That’s not bad] has been reached. If approved by the Court, the net settlement proceeds, after Court-awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses of up to $13.875 million [that’s less than one-third] and the costs of notice and administration of the settlement, will be distributed in the future. You may exclude yourself from the FX Damages Class by March 2, 20012. Otherwise, you will be bound by any judgment or settlement in this case.

Will I exclude myself? Of course not.

Just thought you’d like to know. Tomorrow I’ll run to the bank and deposit the check.

P.S. And you do save all those brokerage purchase notices, right?

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